Newspaper Column

Who Short Changed Our Expectations?


By M. Babajide-Alabi

I read on an online blog last week that Nigerians are patient and tolerant people. To be honest I do not understand how the writer came to this conclusion as he did not give evidence of a study or research to support this. However, I took pleasure in the story just as I did a few years ago when a report classified Nigerians as the happiest people on the planet.

I cannot place these seemingly ‘strange’ virtues, but on second thought one can reason that if not for “patience and tolerance”, many of the so called leaders gallivanting about on the Nigerian political scene today would be cooling their feet in various dingy jails across the country.

According to the writer, we are not only patient and tolerant, we are also forgiving. I tend to believe that what he intended to write was ‘forgetful’ and not forgiving. I reasoned that if not forgetfulness, many Nigerian politicians, rather than being tolerated, would have been stoned to death for atrocities committed against humanity and the nation.

These atrocities range from corruption to mismanagement and assisting the “rape” of the once prosperous country called Nigeria. If not for forgetfulness how can many of the present day political players still be around despite the numerous legendary arrests of some of them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). We easily forget the major newspapers’ headlines in the past “celebrating” these arrests for stealing and funds misappropriation in states or parastatals under their watch.

Simply put, we are not forgiving, but plain forgetful. This forgetfulness is not only limited to individuals, but also institutions within the country. The police can easily be “forgetful.” But there has been no agency that distinctly displays this trait as the EFCC. It has a reputation of “suddenly forgetting” the basis of arrests of some of these politicians. This “toothless bulldog” makes so much noise in effecting arrests but loses its voice in the court.

We cannot be too hard on ourselves as citizens if we forget easily the atrocities of these politicians. If there had been conclusive prosecutions of some of them by the anti-corruption agency (agencies), they would have been taken out of circulation for a long time. Yet, they still roam the streets in their expensive cars, live in their mansions, spend the stolen money to oppress their fellow citizens and also buy their votes. And without any speck of shame we celebrate them as heroes and messiahs.

The confidence of these men and women is so high based on the fact that they are deemed innocent until proven otherwise. They know delivering a guilty verdict on them may never happen as long as they continue to “position” themselves “properly” in whatever government is in power. Unfortunately, in this process, the EFCC conveniently “forgets” what the initial charges against them were.

Nigerians are patient. We are patient as long as the action in question do not directly affect our daily breads. Are we really patient? I will call it the art of being unconcerned with what is happening “around” us but not directly “to” us. But do not make the mistake that a “tolerant” or “patient” Nigerian is an idiot. Of course we lose our cool when you “corner” us to the walls and there seems no way “out”. Anything short of this, we are patriotic, patient and tolerant. You can see this trait in the workers of the state of Osun who despite being owed eight months wages still dutifully report to work on empty stomach.

But do not let us push this too far. In recent times, there seems to be a slight change in our body languages. After the “mass” demand for change and the inauguration of the government of President Muhammad Buhari, we are showing our impatient sides. We are getting really restless and frustrated as we think the “change” light at the end of the tunnel is fast disappearing.

We are beginning to question our sanity while wondering how we believed, wholesale, the CHANGE sound bite of the then opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC). We are asking too many questions than we used to before. We are asking when is the APC-led government going to hit the ground running as promised during the electioneering campaign. We are complaining that four weeks into the government, no major policy announcement has been made. Rather than amuse ourselves with the intra-party fightings and the show of shame in the National Assemblies, we are deeply concerned about the future.

Now we are reflecting on the cautious words of analysts we had shouted down before the elections. These analysts had advised in their wisdom that no change will come to the polity until the present crop of leaders are “retired” from governance. But we did not listen as we “shouted” CHANGE. We refused to accept that merely “mouthing” change does not mean it will happen.

We were sucked in by the sweet-talking politicians who promised heaven in Nigeria. We are regretting “secretly” now that we did not demand for a blueprint for the implementation of the so called change. Instead, we believed the hype and the propaganda that once the “evil” Goodluck Jonathan was out of the way, the change in Nigeria is automatic.

There were many questions we wished to ask but dared not for the fear of being labelled anti-progressives. There were doubts on our minds on the modalities of the “new change” but we could not put them into words.

Nigerians now have idea of what change will be. We have seen the “colour” of the change as we struggle to accept that in this dispensation the players will fight, kick, bite, back stab and cut the limbs of “friends” who stand in their paths to power. They have shown that they belong to nobody but themselves. And we have realised that the APC is not a saintly party after all. We see the cracks widening everyday as these strange bedfellows are bringing out their knives and stabbing each other in the back.

We have seen the vulnerability of APC in government. Nigerians thought they voted for a party that would be a model for other ruling African political parties. What they have now is a party that has been thrown into confusion from the start. Is this the beginning of the end of the change revolution? Or simply put, has Nigerians been short changed? Only time would tell.

Published in Sunday Vanguard July 15, 2015. CLICK HERE

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